Snacks are the crux of student life for a multitude of reasons: brain food for studying, keeping up blood sugar, reenergizing throughout a long day, the list goes on. For me, it’s all about recapturing the taste of my Jamaican household while I’m in school.

This need only increases knowing that right now, my parents are in Jamaica for the third time since the school year started – so basically they go like the island is just an hour away now (which will probably be true soon with today’s air travel technology).

While they’re on the beach sipping out of giant coconuts with a straw – not even exaggerating – I’ll be tackling the beast that is university in April and licking my wounds with some delicious Jamaican treats.

library snacks

Photo by Clive Brown

The Crispy-Crunchy

Guess what? Chips can be healthy, as is the case with these delicious Jamaican snacks. They’re gluten-free, cholesterol free, and contain 0 grams of trans-fat, no preservatives, and “absolutely no artificial flavoring,” allowing you to snack-on without shame.

1. Banana Chips

If you’re thinking about your favorite mushy, sweet treat wrapped in yellow, then think again. A common snack food among tropical cultures, “all natural” banana chips, made with green banana, are perfect to satisfy salt cravings.

After the initial crunch, they immediately become soft until they melt away – making them the perfect textural blend between banana and chip. What I love most about these is that they taste just like my mother’s pan-fried green bananas (the best of the best from mom, of course), but in ready-made form.

2. Plantain Chips

library snacks

Photo by Gabi Rosenthal

Though similar in taste with many of the same healthy snack benefits, plantain chips are – in my humble opinion – not to be confused with banana chips. They’re thinner and crispier, making them slightly darker in color and lighter, so that they practically dissolve in your mouth after a couple seconds of chewing.

3. Sweet Plantain Chips

That’s right, sweet plantain chips. What is best about these chips is that they perfectly mimic their hot cousins. Not only do Grace Kennedy Limited’s plantain chips contain 33 percent less fat than potato chips, these chips taste almost exactly like sweet fried plantains, once again transporting me back to my mother’s kitchen, and making me feel like I’m back to stealing a fresh one right off the plate as they are cooked.

The Savory

4. Cocktail Patties

Basically, taking the much loved Jamaican patty (made of ground meat or veggies seasoned and wrapped in a crust and often served with Coco bread at mealtimes) and then putting them in mini form so that you can A) serve them at parties as an hors-d’oeuvre or B) snack on them whenever you like.

Most people go for the beef, but my personal favorite is the curry chicken. In recent years, more places have also been including a veggie option for the non meat-eaters.

 The Chewy-Crumbly and the Sweet

If you’re not a fan of chips or you just have a raging sweet tooth, have no fear. There’s more:

5. Bun and Cheese

library snacks

Photo by Gabi Rosenthal

If this treat isn’t number one, “bun and cheese” probably still makes the top three list for favorite Jamaican snacks. Before your imagination takes you astray, know that Jamaican spice bun actually comes in loaf form. Cut off a couple of slices, slap some cheese in the middle (usually Tastee pasteurized cheese), and make yourself a little sandwich.

If you’re not a fan of cheese outside of pasta, like me, then just have a slice without the cheese. Some Jamaicans may react like this is a crime against culture itself – but it still tastes damn good. (PS: Unlike loaves of bread, the end slices are the best).

6. Milo (AKA Chocolate AKA The Best Sh*t Ever)

library snacks

Photo by Gabi Rosenthal

Milo is a chocolate mix for drinking with milk. Admittedly, Milo is made by Nestlé, which is a Swiss company, and also a product of Colombia like the chips. However, Milo is as loved in Jamaica as it is all over the world.

It can be served hot, in which case it’s more like a cocoa, or cold. I’m completely addicted to cold Milo, which is when you mix a few (or more) tablespoons of Milo into a cold glass of milk and mix it in. Then you can use a spoon to eat the layer of chocolate sitting on top, and then drink the chocolate milk that’s underneath.

7. Toto

Also sometimes a dessert, Toto is a Jamaican coconut cake containing coconut flakes, raisins, and also other optional dried fruit or berry. This treat doesn’t depend solely on the brown sugar inside for sweetness. Check out this recipe for making Toto yourself.

Be sure to compliment these snacks with one of Jamaica’s delicious fruit drinks or sodas (or a Red Stripe, because I know you were thinking it). When it comes to these, more artificial flavoring will be found, but they still use natural flavors as well and are a great option. Even the sodas are healthier than our usual, often containing far less sodium, sugar, and calories.

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